5 Important Milestones of Maturity That Nobody Talks About
I'm still a pretty young guy, so feel free to punch me in the mouth for saying this, but getting old is kinda great. Sure, you have bigger problems and they happen more often, but you're also better at dealing with them, and fun gets more fun. While "math exams" and knee-scrapes get replaced by taxes and chronic lower-back pain, video game binges and exciting new TV shows get replaced by actual accomplishments and, "Hey, I get to have sex later." If any kids are reading this, make sure you pay attention in sex ed. Because your future is going to have a lot of it. Sometimes with a guy named Ed.
But the steps between childhood and adult are multitude, and while I've covered a few of the most underrated ones before, I decided to cover a few more. Because I want you all to grow up as quickly and healthily as possible, because I hate children, because they suck. And here are a few ways to tell that you aren't one anymore ...
You Stop Caring Which Roommate Is the Messy One
Allow me to present you with a riddle: there is a house with four roommates. One morning, Freddy gets up late, rushes through breakfast, and doesn't have time to wash his bowl and coffee mug before running off to work, so he leaves it in the sink. Then Rachel, who goes to work later, doesn't bother washing her coffee mug because she's sorta hungover and forgets it's even there. She sets it right next to Freddy's bowl and, a second later, it seems like it's part of the mess that was already there when she woke up. Then Krogag the Destroyer, who got up earlier than anyone else, comes home from lunch and accidentally burns his nachos, crusting the cookie sheet with blackened cheese that he doesn't have time to clean up before running back to the Northlands to conclude his conquest.
You meet the coolest people on Craigslist.
Then, they all come home at the end of the day, and the kitchen is a disaster. Who's to blame?
Answer: You're to blame, because you're the only one left who gives a shit. Remember how I said there were four roommates? You're the fourth one. Ha! That's why they call it a riddle, you stupid fucking shitlord. Unless you actually got it, in which case ... well played, sir or madam, well played indeed. It is refreshing to encounter such a worthy adversary.
As Krogag would say, "I hope to one day meet you on the field of battle and make your wife a widow."
I'm gonna be straight with y'all: I am one mediocre-ass roommate when it comes to cleanliness. But I've lived in a lot of group homes and occupied every slot on the cleanest-to-grossest-roommate spectrum, and I can say with certainty that figuring out who's "to blame" is a complete fucking waste of time, because there is no right way to live. Look, fuckers, I got science: everyone likes their living space different. While some people can't even think unless it's cyborgs-have-taken-over-dystopian-future-level immaculate, others gain energy from the squalid hell-pit they call a home, like a sack of spider eggs feasting on human brain-juice. Living with another person isn't about enforcing your rules on them; it's about figuring out how to cohabitate. And if you can't agree about how best to do that, just figure out how to compromise until you can move out.
You Realize Forgiving People Benefits You
A big part of raising kids is teaching them to admit when they are wrong (at least, this is what I'm told by people who are raising kids. I never learned that skill myself, which will probably present some kind of problem if I ever make a mistake or am wrong). We do this because kids stumble through life like drunk, incompetent jackasses, being wrong about everything they talk about.
It's not that funny. It's just a fucking flower. Shut the hell up.
Naturally, it seems less important to bother teaching kids to forgive, because fuck them. Why would a kid ever need to forgive me? I'm an adult, and I know how to drive a car. But the trick is that forgiveness is actually the more important skill, because our entire society falls apart without it.
Let's say, hypothetically, that a co-worker -- oh, gee, I dunno -- burns your entire desk down with a Roman candle because he came into the office naked and drunk on Canadian moonshine. That sucks and is gonna hurt whatever projects you've been working on, but nowhere near as much as whether or not you forgive your hypothetical co-worker (who, for the sake of this column, I will now name Mark Hill). You're going to have to work with him again anyway, and holding a grudge will have a way bigger impact on the future of your productivity than the blackened, smoldering remains of your desk. Especially since you had all your shit saved to Google Docs anyway.
Your tricks won't work on me, Canadian, for I have harnessed the power of The Cloud.
Somewhere along the line, what you're actually doing in the world becomes more important than any weird grudges, and dropping them becomes a whole lot easier than letting them guide your decisions. Which leads right into ...
You Cut Down on Recreation to Avoid Stress
When you're a kid, the single most important thing to you is your time off. Whether you're at work or school, you spend the entire time fantasizing about what you're going to do when you're done: touch a boob, play StarCraft, drink light beer, set something on fire on the beach, hide in the bushes when the cops show up -- whatever. But at a certain point, you're going to have the opportunity to either devote most of your energy (not time, since it's easy to be stuck in a 60-hour-a-week job that you don't care about. When I say "energy," I mean your opinions and values and thinkin' time) to your career, or to your recreation time. And then you're going to realize that if you focus your energy on the latter, you're literally going to eat your own arms off in frustration. Literally. Eat your own arms. Off.
Right down to the bone.
In order to be happy and respect yourself, you need two things. First, you need to do something that matters to other people, and second, you have to be trying to get better at it -- trying to improve yourself. Sports, TV, and even video games do a great job of imitating the latter, but they can't create the former -- which is why every "fan club," every online video game guild, and every casual weekend sports team will eventually dissolve into petty bickering and drama. Their brains are looking for some kind of problem to solve, some imperfection to correct. This explains why so many Internet controversies are about literally nothing: people need a crusade and a purpose, and if they don't have one in real life because their lives are spent dicking around, they'll just fucking make one up out of thin air.
That's why the Internet, as a whole, is known for getting outraged about stupid shit. Most people who use the Internet have their priorities in order, but the most vocal, loudest people here don't. The fact that they spend so much of their energy on their hobbies and recreation time is, paradoxically, why they hate everything so much. But this doesn't happen to most people. It gets nipped in the bud right around the time ...
You Make Financial Decisions Based on Other People
George Bluths and Ayn Rands aside, most of you reading this will end up with more and more money as your life goes on. And while most kids imagine that this means buying way more video games and concert tickets and fancy cars, the reality is that this is exactly what that means. I bought Shadow of Mordor right when it came out, and I didn't even have to save up or anything. I have a special edition of Dark Souls II! For no reason! It came with a stupid doll, and I broke it, and I don't even give a fuck.
This is my desk. The tissues are for when I want to masturbate. The AP Style guide and collection of Shakespeare's Sonnets are
for when I want to masturbate. I don't know why I have the Alien vs. Predator DVDs.
But the dirty secret is that those are the exceptions. There's a lot of shit I could technically afford (a PS4, a car, surgery to remove the spider colony that lives in my brain), but buying all those things would put me in debt for a few months. I can't do that, because that's less important to me than taking care of shit that might happen to other people: if my younger brother gets arrested, or my mom wipes out on her rocket-cycle and needs a medical procedure, or the FBI finally catches up with my dad for all that shit he did in the '90s, they're going to need me to bail them out. And I really, really want to be there for them if that happens, because (honestly?) it makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like I matter. And I really can't wait to grab my dad by his collar, pull his face close to mine, and scream, "You should've killed Agent Hawkins when you had the chance. Now I have to clean up your mess." Then I finally get to go finish my business with Hawkins, because he and I? We got a history.
We both know how this ends, Hawkins. Our fates are linked now.
"Money isn't important, only family is important" is stupid and shortsighted but also very close to being right. The truth is, money is important because family is more important. And I'm using the hippie version of the word "family," where it includes everyone in the world you care about. I'm not pointing this out to indicate what a nice guy I am, because anyone who reads my column or knows me personally is well aware that "nice" does not describe me at all. Neither does "kind," "caring," "responsible," or "sober." No, I just love the raw fucking power that comes along with giving a shit about other people.
Oh, and this one comes with a bonus: when you can't spend all the money you want on, say, video games, all those video games get better. Part of why I like Shadow of Mordor so much is because I haven't played Arkham City or any of the Assassin's Creed games -- I wanted to, but I couldn't justify the purchase to myself. Now, even though people keep telling me that Shadow is just Arkham Creed but in Mordor, I don't give a shit, because I haven't played those games and it all seems new to me. My point is: I get to enjoy video games more because of my father's high-profile legal problems and my mother's irresponsible adrenaline addiction. And that's awesome.
Your Perspective on Movies Changes
Conventional wisdom says that kids have more trouble distinguishing real life from movies than adults do, and conventional wisdom is absolutely correct. Kids, and I can't stress this enough, are fucking stupid as shit. If you see one, just punch it right in its stupid face as a punishment for its stupidity and hubris. I am 100 percent serious. But adults have a different problem: we know movies aren't real -- but we can't feel it.
For me, the sweet spot for enjoying movies was roughly between the ages of 14 and 21. For those years, scary monsters didn't frighten me anymore because I knew they didn't exist, and traumatic stuff didn't bother me because I had never been through real trauma and so didn't even really understand it. But then I graduated college, worked a few jobs, started assaulting strange children on the street, and then ... well, there's a scene at the beginning of Assault on Precinct 13 where, to establish what utter cockbags the antagonistic gang members are, we get a scene in which a little girl is shot in the chest and dies. It's not terribly effective graphics, and it's pretty cheesy in the context of the movie. But I first watched that movie shortly after someone very close to me gave birth to a daughter, so it became the scariest fucking thing I had ever seen. Because even though I'm a skinny, timid dork, I didn't want to watch a movie anymore. I wanted to leap into the screen and start headbutting everybody. Headbutts all around.
I compulsively slammed my forehead through four different laptops just trying to get that screenshot,
and now I have no idea what joke I was goarnnn turrrr meeaaaaakeeeee.
And I'm just some childless bachelor, if you don't count the skull-spiders. I can't imagine what it's like if you actually make a person with your genitals or adopt one and promise to take care of it forever. But I do know that it's impossible to grow up without having a similar experience. Maybe you'll date a cop, and then any movie that has a shootout with the police will remind you so much of your concerns about them that you'll completely stop rooting for Robert De Niro. Or maybe the entire tone of the movie will shift. For most people, All Is Lost is an inspiring allegory about the endurance of the human spirit, but for me (someone with a lot of experience with sailing) it's just a frustrating anecdote about a jackass who keeps almost getting himself killed out of monumental stupidity. It's like watching a movie about a race-car driver who gets in an accident because he's never even seen a car before.
Wharf ... irrs ... yuurrr ... EPIRB?
"So, what, you're saying people shouldn't be allowed to do offensive things in movies?" No! Stop being stupid. Somebody smack the hypothetical person who said that. I'm saying that, as you grow older and collect more experiences, some of the dumber or more gratuitous parts of movies are going to become harder for you to enjoy, and a lot of the criticisms you thought were stupid are suddenly going to make a lot more sense. And that's fine, because doing something for real is way better than watching someone else pretend to do it on a screen.
Sarrrmbleeeen gert merr taar a haaaspeetol
Growing up rules.
JF Sargent is taking a week off to figure out how to ruin more movies for himself. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook if that's the kind of thing you do.
For more from Sarge, check out 6 Mistakes You Will Make When Buying Your Next Car and 4 Common Complaints That Completely Miss the Point.